Headlines Misrepresent True Scope of Proposed Restrictions
The headline which appeared in the Santa Fe New Mexican yesterday, "Lawmakers Vow to Close Gun Show Loophole" and the branding of gun control bills filed in advance of the 2017 Regular Session of the New Mexico Legislature are misleading and downright deceptive. In fact, the words "gun show" are never even used in the proposed legislation.
Senate Bill 48, brought to Senators Richard Martinez (D) & Peter Wirth (D) by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's national gun control group, Everytown for Gun Safety, and the House companion, House Bill 50 by Stephanie Garcia Richard (D), go far beyond the proposed gun show restrictions the Legislature has previously debated. SB 48 & HB 50 would criminalize nearly all private firearm sales between individuals, regardless of where those transactions take place, and require them to be conducted through a federal firearms licensed dealer with extensive government paperwork and a payment of an undetermined fee. Limited exceptions are only made for sales to immediate family members, law enforcement and the military.
Additionally, the measures not only restrict gun sales (which, in most minds, would involve an exchange of currency or a permanent change of ownership), but also the transfer of firearms. Because that term is specifically defined to mean "sell, furnish, give, lend, deliver or otherwise provide, with or without [monetary or other] consideration," these bills would treat gifts, loans, exchanges and other temporary changes in possession of a firearm as the equivalent of a sale by a firearms dealer, unless the transfer falls within one of the narrow exceptions.
After voters in Maine defeated an Everytown-backed November ballot initiative to impose so-called "universal" background checks on private gun sales and transfers in that state, and after watching Nevada voters only approve a similar measure by a fraction of one percent of votes despite Bloomberg and Everytown spending twenty million dollars on that effort, gun control advocates are attempting to garner support for this misguided proposal in New Mexico by excluding some "temporary" firearm transfers from the acts' provisions. Their list of exceptions (transfers taking place at shooting ranges, while hunting or trapping, during an organized competition or performance, or any time the transferor remains present the entire time the transfer is taking place) only serves to highlight the overreach of the bills and raise endless questions about their scope, compliance and enforceability.
For example, under the language of these bills as filed, if "Mike" temporarily loaned his firearm to his close friend "Tim" to shoot while both were present together at the local firing range, a background check might not be required. If Mike were to loan that same gun to Tim so that Tim could take it to practice shooting at the same range without Mike being present, a background check would be required for the initial transfer, and then another separate check would be necessary in order for Tim to legally return Mike his own firearm. If Tim wanted to target shoot with Mike's firearm on Tim's own property or out on BLM land without Mike being with him, a background check would be required for the initial transfer and for the return of the gun. Failure to comply with the background check requirements would trigger misdemeanor or felony-level penalties for temporary firearm transfers between non-exempt family members, friends, neighbors, colleagues, fellow gun club members, etc.
The fact is no background check scheme will ever be "universal," because criminals will simply ignore the law; what these bills would do is cost law-abiding citizens time, money and the freedom to temporarily loan their firearms or privately sell guns from their personal collections to one another.
The New Mexico Legislature convenes for its 2017 Regular Session on Tuesday, January 17. We will report back to you with more specifics and action items on these restrictive measures once lawmakers return to Santa Fe.